The burning question that many cigar smokers have today, especially the novices, is how to avoid an uneven burn.
An uneven burn, or a bad burn, is often caused by rushing through the lighting of the cigar. Be patient as you light-up your premium cigar so that you get the best burn possible. For tips on how to properly light your cigar, read How to Smoke an El Septimo Cigar. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common burns, and how to fix them.
THE MOST COMMON BURNS AND HOW TO FIX THEM:
The most common bad burn is called canoeing. This is when the cigar is burning down one side only. This is one of the most common burn issues and is usually caused by an incorrect light, or by an unevenly humidified cigar. A good burn should be thin and even all the way around the cigar. One of the early signs of canoeing is if the burn line is becoming irregular or wide on one part of the cigar. In general terms, this just means the cigar is getting overheated and/or is heating unevenly which leads to a faster combustion rate on one side of the cigar. The faster the rate of combustion, the faster that diagonal shape will appear, and the hotter the one side of the cigar will get compared to the other side.
Canoeing can usually be prevented by rotating your cigar as you smoke it, which will allow the ash to heat more evenly. If you notice your cigar is starting to canoe, try wetting the faster-burning side with a little spit to slow it down. If this doesn’t work, you can fix the burn with a lighter by doing a touch-up and by lighting the side that is burning more slowly. Avoid over-puffing while touching up the burn, as it speeds up the slow burning side. Alternatively, and usually in more extreme cases, you can re-cut the cigar just past the affected area. Once you have done so, gently exhale through the cigar, therefore taking away any harmful or smelly chemical flavors and odors that have lingered due to the combustion rate. You may enjoy your cigar once again after repeating the lighting process.
If you’re noticing this happening on more than one cigar in your humidor, it might be time to rotate your collection again. For tips on how to properly store your cigars, read The Ultimate Guide on Storing Your Cigars.
One of the most common reasons why a runner occurs is if there is a large vein in one of the wrappers. As that vein begins to burn, it acts like a fuse would, traveling all the way down one side of your cigar in just a matter of minutes. Once it starts to burn down the fuse, the wrapper deteriorates as the fuse moves in the line of the vein (a predictable line). The wrapper begins to pull apart and this leads to the destruction of your cigar.
If your cigar becomes victim to this deadly burn, the best and only way to act is by letting the cigar cool down and then relighting it. If the runner is caused by a heavy vein, wet the tip of your finger and carefully apply some saliva to the vein. This will help slow the burn and hopefully, it may even stop the burn.
However, if this doesn’t work, have a peek at your cigar and see if the vein presents any clear signs of getting smaller or stopping. If not, discontinue use of the cigar. However, if there is a sign of the vein stopping or getting smaller in size, then continue smoking your cigar in the hopes that the runner will stop in its tracks.
Tunneling is the issue we see when the filler tobacco burns faster than the wrapper tobacco, causing a tunnel to form on the inside of the cigar. Tunneling usually occurs because of overly-slow smoking. When a smoker goes a long period of time without puffing on their smoke, the cherry cools, leaving only the core hot. The wrapper and binder stop burning while the filler tobacco keeps smoldering, creating a hole straight through the middle of your cigar.
You can usually tell when a tunnel is forming as there is progressively less smoke coming from the cigar. The best way to prevent tunneling is to puff on your cigar often to prevent the wrapper from getting too cool. If the tunnel has already formed, you will need to even up the burn by lighting the outside tobacco with your lighter or match and begin smoking at a slightly faster rate. Just like a canoe that is too far gone, you can even allow your cigar to cool and go out, then cut and re-light the foot to resume your smoke.
Splitting is the instance in which the binder and filler of your cigar expand, only to split the wrapper of your cigar.
A few instances that trigger your cigar to split include over-humidifying your cigar, a large humidity difference between the storage and smoking environment of your cigar, or simply smoking your cigar too quickly. In most instances, a change in temperature from the relative humidity inside of your cigar expands a tight wrapper, causing it to split. If you continue smoking your cigar as you normally do while the heat burns up the cigar, the split will just keep getting longer like a crack in a window.
To repair a split cigar, begin to touch-up the flame at the bottom of the split ever so slightly and work your way up quickly. Be sure to get both sides of the split and then wipe away the remaining ash you just created on the wrapper. The split has be cauterized, so you can now expect the cigar to burn without causing the split to grow. When the burn reaches the end of the split, it will burn past the split, burning correctly through the remainder of your cigar.
Finally, another issue you might come across is called a mousehole burn. This is when there is a channel of either air or drier tobacco inside your cigar, and it leads to the surface behind the burn line. A mouse-hold burn is typically caused by a pocket or tunnel in the filler tobacco on one side of your cigar, which makes it burn really fast while the other side is hardly burning at all.
The first common feature of a mousehole burn is a small blackened circle in the side of the wrapper above the burn line. This spot usually graduates to a hole in the sidewall of the wrapper. The second common feature is a hardened, spiked ash and poor performance of the cigar. Sometimes your cigar may look like it is burning okay because it has a pretty nicely formed ash, but when you drop the ash and see a spiked cone, even without the presence of a mousehole, this is further evidence of a burn issue caused by poor construction or poorly fermented/aged tobacco.
Your fix, if needed, for this scenario is the same as canoeing, but mouseholes rarely get out of hand…